Posted November 11, 2013

Heisman Watch Week 11: Alabama QB AJ McCarron building can’t-dismiss case

A.J. McCarron, Alabama Crimson Tide, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Heisman Watch, Johnny Football, Johnny Manziel
AJ McCarron turned in another solid, if quiet, performance against LSU, throwing for 179 yards and three scores

AJ McCarron’s play against LSU — 179 yards, three scores — showed his growth in two years. (Al Tielemans/SI)

Last week’s Heisman Watch attempted to explain how November has become a game-changing month in the Heisman Trophy race. Week 11 showed just how fluid that chase can be.

It was put-up-or-shut-up time for a handful of Heisman candidates this weekend, and as it often goes in November, some fared better than others. Thanks to Oregon’s Thursday-night loss to Stanford, Marcus Mariota took a big enough dip to lift Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston into the Heisman lead. But Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Baylor’s Bryce Petty each passed tremendous tests to boost their own résumés.

If the race’s current state holds, there should be plenty to watch from a balloting standpoint. The Heisman voting regions could play a big role in the race’s outcome, as those six sections of the country often feature geographical biases based on teams those media members watch on a more regular basis. As Chris Huston of NBC Sports explained Saturday, voters in the South section might split votes between McCarron and Winston, especially if Alabama and Florida State land in the BCS title game. Such a scenario could help a player like Mariota, who might be the dominant candidate in the Far West. And who knows how Johnny Manziel and Bryce Petty would affect one another in the Southwest.

In 2012, Manziel won every region but the Midwest, which selected Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o by a mere three-point margin. Kansas State’s Collin Klein finished third in each region but garnered his best finish (220 points) among Big 12 voters in the Southwest. Regional biases exist in the Heisman race, and that may become a battle to watch between the newest top two in this week’s truncated Heisman Watch.

MANDEL: Complete bowl projections: Stanford win creates nationwide ripple

Heisman Watch Week 11

1. Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
2. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama
3. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
4. Bryce Petty, QB Baylor
5. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon

STAPLES: Alabama’s C.J. Mosley gives Heisman-worthy effort in win over LSU

Player of the Week

AJ McCarron, Alabama QB
Week 11 stats: 14-of-20 passing for 179 yards, three touchdowns

The last time LSU visited Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, AJ McCarron looked the part of a first-year starter against an imposing defense. McCarron completed only 16-of-28 passes, threw an interception and couldn’t find the end zone in the infamous 9-6 overtime loss to top-ranked Tigers. But two seasons and two national titles later, the Crimson Tide quarterback was a seasoned veteran in the latest installment of the SEC clash.

McCarron threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns and helped his offense play mistake-free football in No. 1 Alabama’s 38-17 victory over No. 10 LSU. He found freshman tight end O.J. Howard for a 52-yard score to give the Tide a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, and they never trailed again. McCarron, who is seeking his third national championship, surpassed former ‘Bama quarterback John Parker Wilson to become the program’s all-time leader in passing yards (7,997).

Manziel, Mariota and Winston might dominate the box score, but McCarron has long been lauded as more of a game-manager than a game-changer, and that approach has worked wonders for the Tide’s veteran leader. McCarron has completed at least 70 percent of his throws in six of Alabama’s nine games this season, and he connected on 69 percent against Texas A&M. After starting the season with three interceptions in his first four games, the senior hasn’t tossed a pick since Sept. 28 against Ole Miss.

If you’re looking for explosive stats from a Heisman winner, McCarron isn’t your guy; he sits just outside the country’s top 40 in total passing yards. But McCarron is the ultra-efficient headliner of college football No. 1 team. He ranks top-10 in completion percentage (69.4), passing efficiency (169.1) and adjusted quarterback rating, or QBR (83.3).

Despite the benefits of playing for the nation’s No. 1 team, McCarron still faces an uphill climb to hoist the trophy in New York. In a stat-heavy world of offensive football, how many voters would cast their ballots for a quarterback who doesn’t boast those gaudy numbers? The last three Heisman winners have all been dual-threat passers, and the most recent pro-style quarterback to win the Heisman, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford in 2008, threw for more than 4,700 yards and 50 touchdowns during his winning season.

MANDEL: Alabama’s offense proves to be its best defense in victory over LSU

Stock rising

Jameis Winston
Winston didn’t have to do much against Wake Forest thanks to a stellar showing from Florida State’s defense. The Seminoles forced seven Demon Deacon turnovers, including six interceptions, and held Wake to only a field goal. That’s fortunate for the ‘Noles, who weren’t as prolific on offense as usual. Winston played just over two quarters and finished 17-of-28 for 159 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, though the offense recorded only 296 total yards. For now, Winston’s numbers on the year are giving him the edge over McCarron, but Florida State’s first-year starter might have to reel off some bigger stats to keep that spot.

MANDEL: College Football Overtime: Florida State looks like No. 1 team after Week 11; more Overtime

Bryce Petty
Baylor’s defense was the story of its win over Oklahoma, but Petty squashed his own doubters by performing against a tough Sooners defense. Despite throwing for a season-low 204 yards, Petty found the end zone three times through the air and twice on the ground. The Bears reeled off 459 yards of offense and Petty didn’t throw an interception – he only has one pick in all of 2013. Keep an eye on Baylor’s quarterback if Baylor continues to climb the BCS standings.

STAPLES: Baylor establishes itself as complete team in rout of Oklahoma

Marcus Mariota may have had a rough showing against Stanford, but don't eliminate him just yet.

Marcus Mariota had a rough showing against Stanford, but don’t eliminate him just yet. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Stock falling

Marcus Mariota
Let’s be clear: Mariota’s chances of winning the Heisman are not dead. Both Manziel and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III hailed from teams with at least two losses and weren’t true title contenders when they claimed their awards. But there’s no doubt Mariota faltered in a game that should define a Heisman winner. He completed only 59 percent of his throws, lost a fumble and was a non-factor on the ground, where he was sacked three times and managed -16 net rushing yards. Still, Mariota has yet to throw an interception against 22 touchdowns and he’s among the nation’s leaders in total offense. He could still find his way to New York.

MANDEL: Stanford stifles Oregon in clash of football cultures

Heisman chatter

Tweets of the week
Big praise from a big name:

Cardinal kryptonite?

Not a bad first season in college:

Video of the week
AJ McCarron’s 52-yard touchdown pass to tight end O.J. Howard gave the Crimson Tide the lead against LSU, and they wouldn’t trail again.

THAMEL: College sports leaders say major NCAA overhaul imminent

19 comments
mashley278
mashley278

Yeah, who cares. The Heisman Trophy is worthless anyway. It's synonymous with "won't do anything afterwards". Championships? That's another thing. I'd rather have AJ than Johnny "it's all about me" Football  or a freshman QB under investigation. Let 'em have all the stats and bling they want, the Tide wants Crystal.

KenBigbee
KenBigbee

That was no Heisman performance against Miss. State.

dandogwood
dandogwood

AJ is just driving the car and steering in traffic. Manziel is racing and maneuvering and passing like crazy on two wheels.  Big difference. 

dandogwood
dandogwood

Manziel is obviously the best football player in America by far. Most exciting football player maybe ever in college.  And his stats are better than last seasons.

DerekSugimura
DerekSugimura

Using "Heisman logic," Winston's clearly the front-runner now that Mariota stumbled badly in his marquee game.  McCarron might get it, but he's not getting the kind of concentrated hype he'd need.  Bryce Petty? Yeah, right.

Lost in all of this is the fact that Manziel deserves another Heisman; put him on any of the other contenders' teams, and he'd be undefeated.  Put them on the Aggies, and A&M would have at least one more loss--maybe two.  That, to me, is the most outstanding player.

Bruces1g
Bruces1g

As a long time Bama fan, personally I prefer championship trophies to the Heisman. The Heisman is all well and good, but at the end of the day it is a team sport and no one player plays by himself. 

Do I think AJ is deserving? As much as anyone else. His accomplishments are phenomenal in this day and age of football. I also think he is a class act and is as focused as a laser beam on TEAM goals and winning. 

He will surely be missed after this season, but I have really enjoyed watching him play!

Suteki73
Suteki73

How does AJ get the nod because he wins? The TEAM wins, not AJ by himself.  The Heisman goes to the best player, not who wins the most. You put Winston, Manziel, or Mariota on Bama and they would be undefeated too, but they would have way better numbers than AJ.  No way AJ is the BEST PLAYER in college football..........

JimKirkwood1
JimKirkwood1

What all these guys have in common is a great offensive line

jarobertson
jarobertson

I'll take McCarron in the money game, any day of the week. He has more rings than Tiffany's. And that is what is all about.

JamesWarren
JamesWarren

@Suteki73  IF  he beats auburn and miss st.  he will be lead his team to 3 national championship games . and beat johnny autograph on the field. and they would be no use in baylor or oregon  even coming to town.   i think aj wins hands down.  baylor will lose 2 of the next 4

Suteki73
Suteki73

@jarobertson So you don't think Manziel, Winston, or Mariota would have as many rings (with better stats) as AJ if they switched teams?  Please!  Put AJ on A&M and they would be .500 at best.........

mashley278
mashley278

@Suteki73 @jarobertson Didn't Manziel have one of the top OL draft picks on his line last year? Isn't he surrounded with talent? And no, Manziel wouldn't play well in Saban's system, neither would Mariota. It's a 50/50 offense that smashes, not finesses, then hits you with play action. Winston would have probably fit better, but just to clarify, you're saying that Alabama is a better team than FSU right?

cfmspe
cfmspe

@Suteki73 @jarobertson If you put Manziel or Mariota on Bama, it's doubtful they would have much better stats than AJ.  For starters, Alabama has a very balanced attack, and prefer to run the ball when they can.  Bama is 58-0 when they gain at least 140 yards rushing.  Neither does Saban like his QBs to throw the ball up for grabs, or "across the middle late", as Manziel does so often.


I'm reminded of the quote about Michael Jordan - the only person who could hold him below 20 points a game was Dean Smith - his college coach at UNC.


Agreed that Heisman is supposed to be awarded to the best player (which is usually determined by the most gaudy stats), but the voters do seem to like someone who wins.  I think the only way Manziel won the award last year, with a couple of losses, was by beating Alabama. 

 We saw what can happen to a Heisman candidates chances when they run into a strong defense with Mariota.  Winston probably wins it this year, as he hasn't played against a strong defense all year (and won't until NC game).   If so, good for him, that would slightly increase the odds of Bama winning in the NC game, if they are able to beat Auburn and then win the SEC Champ game.


gak01
gak01

@Suteki73 McCarron probably won't win the heisman, everyone knows that. But Manziel, Winston, and Mariota don't play for Alabama. And the don't (and never will) have 3, and possibly 4, national championship rings. As long as McCarron's on campus, there's a good chance they won't even get one.

BryceMajors
BryceMajors

@cfmspe @Suteki73 @jarobertson a lot of that rush yardage given up by fsu is in garbage time. 4th quarter time when they have their 2nd/3rd stringers in. fsu hasnt played a serious 4th quarter yet this year

cfmspe
cfmspe

@Suteki73 @jarobertson

Bama is 58-0 when they gain at least 140 yards rushing, UNDER SABAN.  Forgot to add that last bit.

Interesting  side note:  Florida State gives up an average of 126 yards rushing / game (which includes ACC teams, and even weaker OOC teams).

Suteki73
Suteki73

@gak01 @Suteki73  The fact you say he has three rings, proves my point.  His first ring he didn't play one snap, but Bama won it anyway.  So if you take AJ out of the equation and replace him with anyone else and I would bet Bama would still have won 3 of the last 4 championships.  Number of championships is meaningless in the Heisman race because it is who is the best INDIVIDUAL player. AJ has been great for what Alabama needs him to do, but he is not the best QUARTERBACK, let alone best overall player.  You give Manziel the Bama defense and he would have two rings, and be undefeated.  Give Mariota the Bama offensive line and he would be undefeated with two rings as well.  The point is championship rings mean nothing in the Heisman race because you need a whole team to win a championship.....